Highlights from: Scripture Wars: Justin Martyr’s Battle to Save the Old Testament for Christians

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The party of the Sadducees, for instance, accepted only the Torah, the five original books of Moses;2 the party of the Pharisees reckoned the prophets to have been inspired as well, along with a collection of wisdom literature they called the Ketuvim; while the large body of Greek-speaking Jews outside the Holy Land venerated the much longer Septuagint version and considered all of its contents to be Scripture, too — at least seven whole books more than in many modern Old Testaments, with additions to the standard books, to boot.

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Many second-century churches still read aloud from debatable works. Early, orthodox writings such as The Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians so straddled the line between truly sacred and merely profitable literature that even some of the greatest of the early Fathers (such as Irenaeus and Origen) considered them to be divinely inspired, and this at a time when the status of New Testament books such as Hebrews, Second Peter, James, and the book of Revelation was still warmly debated.

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And therefore the apostle Paul says: “Love is the fulfillment of the law, for he who loves the Lord has fulfilled the law” [Rom. 13:10]. But the Lord too, when He was asked, what was the first commandment, said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole strength; and the second, like to it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments, He says, dependeth the whole law and the prophets” [Matt. 22:37–40]. So He has increased, through our faith in Him, our love toward God and our neighbor, rendering us godly and just and good. And therefore He has made a short word upon the earth.

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The Bible could never again fill the place alone; for the Christians also regarded it as a divine revelation.” In order to sever this common ground, writes Simon, “Akiba [became] the creator of a rabbinical Bible version elaborated with the aid of his pupil, Aquila, and designed to become the common property of all Jews; thus Judaizing the Bible, as it were, in opposition to the Christians. . . . Under Akiba’s guidance he gave the Greek-speaking Jews a rabbinical Bible.”189 Aquila’s was the first Bible to leave out the so-called Apocrypha “on purpose,” so to speak — and also many other Septuagint passages widely seen as favorable to Christianity. We know this not because we know the contents of his version (which has been lost)190 but because it was produced under the discipleship of Akiba — first to officially declare that the Deuterocanonical books lack that sacred quality that would “defile the hands.” “Akiba was the one who definitely fixed the canon of the Old Testament books,” according to Jewish Encyclopedia, and “he protested strongly against the canonicity of certain of the Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus, for instance.”191 This rejection doesn’t seem to have been driven by any theological objections to the contents of the Deuterocanon, for the book of Ecclesiasticus (also known as Ben Sira — the only one Akiba mentions by name) does not contain anything particularly preferential to the Christian position. Books such as Esther and the Song of Songs, on the other hand, about which there had been serious debate within Judaism based on content, Akiba welcomed without hesitation. “To the same motive underlying his antagonism to the Apocrypha,” writes Simon, “namely, the desire to disarm Christians — especially Jewish Christians — who drew their ‘proofs’ from the Apocrypha, must also be attributed his wish to emancipate the Jews of the Dispersion from the domination of the Septuagint, the errors and inaccuracies in which frequently distorted the true meaning of Scripture, and were even used as arguments against the Jews by the Christians.”192

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Afterward, Akiba and the other Jamnia rabbis began the long process that culminated in the creation of what is known today as the Masoretic Text.193 Aquila, as we’ve noted, appears to have used some unknown combination of “not the Septuagint” texts for the creation of his Greek version, as did other early Jewish translators such as Theodotion and Symmachus the Ebionite.194 One of these texts seems to have become the skeleton around which the Masoretes (a group of later Hebrew scholars working during the early medieval period) developed the single authoritative Hebrew text for Rabbinic Judaism.195 The Dead Sea Scrolls (dating, once again, from the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D.) fully demonstrate the fact that early Hebrew Bibles showed far less uniformity of text than Rabbi Akiba preferred. Once the Jamnia rabbis exerted their hegemony, however, the push was on to create a single, “perfect” text sanctified down to the very letter. The final result, for the movement that became, by the late 200s or so, simply “Judaism,” is the Masoretic Text — the basis not only for the Leningrad Codex we cited earlier but, incidentally, for the beloved King James Bible of English Protestantism.

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This brings up a final, very important point about this second new canon, the canon of Akiba and Aquila: the fact, specifically, that theirs was not really “the Jewish canon” or even the canon of “most Jews” in the years to come. The truth is far less straightforward. Akiba was not speaking for all Jews, not even in his own day; and he offered his canon in competition to many other canons, equally Jewish. The Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Jews of the Diaspora — as well as their Semitic cousins, the Samaritans — all used different Bible texts before the revolts; and the Falashas (or Ethiopian Jews) still use a canon containing the Deuterocanonical books to this very day. Most of the Christians (at least for the first hundred years or so) were fully Jewish as well; and their loose, unofficial canon contained not only the Deuterocanonicals but at least twenty already agreed-upon New Testament books as well — all of which had been written by Jews. No, the Jamnia movement was a self-appointed “Committee of Public Safety” that arose during a military crisis and began claiming to speak for all Jews. In reality, they spoke only for a remnant of the Palestinian Pharisees, through the mouthpiece of a demonstrably false prophet, and for those Jews most obstinately opposed to Jesus.

Highlights from: The Eucharist: Mystery of Presence, Sacrifice, and Communion

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The Church’s sacraments are ordained for helping man in the spiritual life. But the spiritual life is analogous to the corporeal, since corporeal things bear a resemblance to spiritual. Now it is clear that just as generation is required for corporeal life, since thereby man receives life; and growth, whereby man is brought to maturity: so likewise food is required for the preservation of life. Consequently, just as for the spiritual life there had to be Baptism, which is spiritual generation; and Confirmation, which is spiritual growth: so there needed to be the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is spiritual food.2

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As we need to eat and drink daily to nourish our bodies, replenish our strength, and to grow, so we need the Eucharist to nourish, replenish, and increase our supernatural life, which is the life of Christ in us. This life consists above all in sanctifying grace and charity. Christ instituted the Eucharist, therefore, to be the food of eternal life.

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When men die, they leave a testament to their loved ones. They may leave certain reminders of their presence, such as letters, photographs, heirlooms, or their estate. On the night before His Passion, Christ also wished to leave a testament to His loved ones; as God, however, He was not limited in His choices. He left a testament that would not be outdone by any other, for He elected to leave to His bride, the Church, nothing less than Himself.

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Three Ends of the Eucharist In summary, there are three principal reasons for which Christ instituted the Eucharist: 1)to perpetuate His human presence among men as our Redeemer and the divine Victim for our souls; 2)to perpetuate His redemptive sacrifice, the supreme act of His burning charity, and allow us to join with Him in offering it to the Father; 3)and to unite Himself in intimate communion with us so as to be our spiritual food and drink.

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If the divine condescension is the characteristic way God reveals Himself in the Old Testament, then the Incarnation of God is in some way the most radically Jewish element of the Christian faith!

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The Incarnation is for the sake of man’s divinization, and the Eucharist is the means by which we are progressively being nourished in Christ’s divinity, through receiving His humanity.

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We enter the Covenant as children of God in Baptism and are brought to be mature members of the Covenant through Confirmation. Sins against the Covenant are forgiven through Penance and the effects of sin are further purified in Anointing of the Sick. Marriage is the privileged sign of the Covenant, which is essentially spousal, as indicated in Ephesians 5:32. The New Covenant has the glory of an eternal priesthood in which men are given the power to act in the person of Christ in administering the sacraments and to teach and govern the Mystical Body.

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The Eucharist, however, does not merely realize an aspect of the New Covenant or symbolize it, as marriage does. Jesus says that the Eucharist is “the New Covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). By giving us Communion, the Eucharist brings us into the most intimate union with Jesus and causes our divinization, and it also makes it possible for us to offer the most perfect worship of God by giving us the means to offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ’s own sacrifice. The Eucharist therefore is the heart of the New Covenant.

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For Christ gave Himself entirely, holding absolutely nothing back, and in this He is a whole burnt offering or holocaust. He offers Himself under the sacramental sign of (unleavened) bread, and in this the Mass is like the cereal offerings. Christ offers Himself to atone for the sins of the world, and this fulfills the types of the sin and guilt offerings that were offered in propitiation for sin. Finally, Christ’s sacrifice establishes peace between God and man and between men, and thus it fulfills the types of the peace offerings. Furthermore, the immolated victim is given to all the faithful in communion, and this is also represented by the peace offerings.27

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First, it is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, for all the faithful partake of the “one bread.” It is one bread not in the appearances, but in the fact that every host contains one and the same Christ. It causes the unity of the Church by uniting those who partake of it with Christ and in Christ. Second, Holy Communion is said (by way of a rhetorical question) to be a partaking of the Blood and Body of Christ, which presupposes the doctrine of the real presence. Third, partaking in the Eucharist is compared analogously to partaking in the sacrifices offered to demons. As partaking of sacrifice offered to demons creates a union with the demons, so partaking of the Eucharist creates a union with Christ. Fourth, the comparison of the Eucharist with participation in a sacrifice to demons implies that the Eucharist is likewise a sacrifice in which the faithful participate.

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St. Augustine speaks of the sacrifice of the Mass offered for the faithful departed in his Faith, Hope and Charity (also known as the Enchiridion): And it cannot be denied that the souls of the dead obtain relief through the piety of their living friends, when they have the Sacrifice of the Mediator offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church on their behalf. But these things benefit those only who during their lives merited that these services should one day help them. For there is a manner of life neither so good as not to need such helps after death, nor so bad that they cannot be of benefit…. When, therefore, sacrifices either of the altar or of alms of any kind are offered for all the baptized dead, they are thank offerings for the very good; for those who were not very bad they are propitiatory offerings; and, though for the very bad they have no significance as helps for the dead, they do bring a measure of consolation to the living. And those who actually receive such profit, receive it in the form either of a complete remission of sin, or of at least an amelioration of their sentence.28